Journalists slam 'derisory' Independent freelance fees

Independent: fees ‘among lowest’

Freelance contributors to the Independent titles are in revolt over rates they have condemned as “derisory”.

More than 200 freelance and staff journalists at the paper have signed a petition, which has been sent to management.

The NUJ-organised petition states: “Independent Newspapers produces two of the most compassionate, incisive, balanced and humane titles in the world. Many instances of oppression and injustice in various corners of the world would go unreported in the United Kingdom if not for the courage of the editorial team.

“It is all the more disappointing, then, that freelance journalists, artists and photographers who work for the company are treated so shabbily.”

According to the NUJ, in 1992 the company agreed a minimum rate for freelances of £192 per 1,000 words – it says the current minimum is £200.

The union has also complained that freelance journalists are not recognised by the company when it comes to collective bargaining over pay and conditions.

The petition states: “Although the fees themselves are insulting, injury is added to the insult when one considers the sweeping licence the company expects from freelances within INMowned media.

“In return for this dismal, one-off fee, freelances must give the exclusive worldwide right to publish, plus the right to publish in all media and formats, the right to include the material on databases and websites, and reprographic rights. The freelance receives no further payment when his or her work is used in this way.”

According to NUJ freelance organiser John Toner, the rates paid by the two Independent titles to freelances are among the lowest in the national press.

He said managing director of the Independent titles Terry Grote had declined his request to have talks about the issue and that the union was now “appealing to their better nature”.

In a letter of response to the petition, Grote said: “As you are well aware, we have a recognition agreement with the NUJ that covers our editorial employees. Inclusion of freelances was discussed when the makeup of the bargaining group was considered in 2002 and it was felt at that time that it was not appropriate to include them in the bargaining group because they were not employees.”

He said that the company’s position remained that collective bargaining should not extend to “non-employees” such as freelances, so a meeting with the NUJ would “serve no useful purpose”.

Grote was not available for comment at the time of going to press.

By Dominic Ponsford

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